Friday, May 25, 2012

The Greatest RPG I Ever Played: Part 2, The Campaign

The Setup:  As I mentioned above, Shadows Angelus is based off of Silent Möbius, which means it features a small group of uniquely-powered individuals fighting against malevolent supernatural forces. In Silent Möbius it’s the oddly-named “Attacked Mystification Police.” In Shadows Angelus it’s Extra Special Weapons and Tactics (a.k.a. XSWAT). Both forces struggle to defend the Earth from strange Lovecraftian monsters called “Entities.” In Silent Möbius the AMP consists of (at most) eight individuals, while XSWAT has roughly 5,000 (of which only 2,500 actually go out on patrol).
The Cast:  The AMP has several magicians, a Shinto priestess, a cyborg, a cyberpunk decker, an esper (an anime telekinetic), and a human-Entity half-breed. XSWAT can have all of this and more. The initial PC group consisted of a Clade (i.e. a Blade Runner-ish replicant), a cyber-augmented police officer, a magician, a paladin, and a scientist. We lost the scientist after a few play sessions (the player dropped out for reasons that aren’t entirely clear), but gained an esper and eventually a cyborg, ending the campaign with a total of 6 PCs.
Game Play:  The game itself lasted 24 sessions, and as far as I know, the GM planned it that way. Perhaps not to have exactly 24 episodes, but certainly to try and present the campaign as single-season anime series (which is usually 26 episodes). We (the players) even began to consider the current session count when discussing possible future events. The closer we got to 26 the higher the tension level became. We knew things had to be coming to a head because the series was almost over! 

We would play from 3 PM to around 9 or 10 PM, meaning roughly 6 hours per session (okay, more like 5). During a single session we would could expect battles against foes big and small, moral quandaries, scenes of player-induced laughter, GM-presented horror, often intense player interaction, and (usually) ended the evening on a positive note. This wasn’t Call of Cthulhu, where everyone, no matter who they are, is doomed to be slowly driven insane, but an anime series -- better yet, an anime magic cop series. While not everything turned up wine and roses, and while some of our battles were won at great cost, they were won. So every session would usually see us advance a little further through the metaplot, slowly learning more about the nature of the world around us and the Earth-threatening foe(s) we were up against.

I think that last sentence helps illustrate why I thought the game was so memorable (to me anyway). While Ross tended to run 3-session arcs, he also kept presenting hints and clues to a greater plot, one that would gain in importance the closer we came to the end of the campaign. Shadows Angelus really was a game where the fate of the world was at stake, and where seemingly inconsequence actions could have repercussions further down the line (some good, some bad).
Player Involvement:  Although the campaign started out slow (I’m not sure everyone fully grasped the genre at the start) the players really started to take notice of what was going on after after the first three sessions or so. In order to make communication easier, Ross started a Yahoo-group, and for the first month it existed there were a total of 67 messages. The second? 216. The third:  279. And then there were 877 in June! (No, the total didn’t keep going up. We didn’t top 877 until over a year later, when 7 people managed to post 922 messages! Of course, that being the climatic end of the campaign might have helped....). Much of the posting came from what we call “Blue Booking.” Which is basically one (or more) PCs getting together to engage in role-playing sessions in story form. Invariably, the end of a session result in some sort of story from one or more players appearing on the mailing list before the next game. Sometimes it was simple asides and interludes, other times it was far more serious character development -- and it was never boring. Between the eight of us, we wrote something like 95 stories, at least 10 of which came after the game was declared over! Oh, and recently the GM has started a new session of Shadows Angelus, titled Ten Years After. True to form, the players promptly ended up writing roughly 25 stories to help set things up before we played even one session!

No comments:

Post a Comment